I was riding in the backseat of a green Volvo station wagon, driving along the old highway between Discovery Bay and Sequim.
It was a gorgeous day. The sun was bright and the water was blue and looking out the window gave me one of the happiest feelings you could have. I was breathless and blown away.
Maybe I was nine. Maybe ten.
The muffler in the car was broken and it roared down the road. There was a Heron in one of the tide flats.
My family spent the day in Sequim, or some of the day. I held onto that feeling I’d had in the car earlier that day. When we got home, I wrote it down.
It was the first time I’d ever written anything down for the purpose of writing it down. Writing had up to that point been a sort of side function. Something that went along with drawing, or posters, or maybe a school assignment or an odd little badly scrawled story in a sloppily kept, fifty cent notebook.
But this time when I sat down in front of an old Gateway laptop that had been my dad’s before mine – it had absorbed his recalcitrant personality, and would eventually become a royal pain in the ass as it died a slow and painful death – it was for the specific purpose of writing something. I was using an old version of Word Perfect, a program that I would become very attached to over the next few years before it finally became too out of date to run on moderately new computers.
I tried to recapture that feeling I’d had that morning as I wrote. I didn’t pay attention to punctuation or paragraphs. At the time I didn’t even understand the concept of paragraphs. It confused me so much because when it was explained to me, I thought the indent was on the right hand side of the page, and I couldn’t figure out how you perfectly place your words to make an indent on the right hand of the page. I figured I could put in the punctuation later.
My typing didn’t include things like periods or capitalizations or the enter key. So I just wrote. I wrote a block of text. I remember it being almost a half a page of solid text, but I haven’t looked back at it in years. Who knows how long it really was.
I think I set out to write a poem about that feeling, I don’t think it was supposed to be a story. But even if it wasn’t the intention, it was certainly the result. At least some form of poem.
I probably showed it to my parents before I did anything else to the block of text. I don’t remember their reactions, probably good.
Later, when I was finished writing, the same day or a few later maybe, I went back to put in the punctuation, or maybe just to read it.
It was an incredibly painful experience, trying to figure out what I had been trying to say from a solid block of text with no punctuation, no capitalized letters, no indication of anything except letters and words that hopefully were all spelled right, in the right order, and not missing any odd words.
Except they weren’t all spelled right, in the right order, and there were definitely words missing.
Little by little, the block of text was separated out by lines, by periods and comas, by capital letters and whatever form grammar takes in my mind that lets it come out alright in the end.
I was proud of that poem. My first one. My first intentional writing, I think. It was weird and not quite perfect and I was proud of it.
Every moment I was trying to make it make sense, I was promising myself that I would never again write without taking the time to punctuate the sentences, or hit enter. It was too annoying, too painful to ignore it on the first go round.